t this moment most cooks are working out what to prepare for lunch on Christmas Day.
Have I remembered the cranberries? Where did I put the duck fat for the potatoes? Do we really need the Brussels sprouts? But it’s easy to forget there are plenty of other birds to eat.
British game birds range from the beautiful woodcock to the more common pheasant, each with its own special gamey taste.
Woodcock and snipe, which can be difficult to find, are cooked whole using the beak to truss the bird. Pheasants are best cooked by removing the legs for braising and roasting the breasts on the crown. Partridge will happily be roasted whole. If you’ve never eaten game before, partridge is the best to try with its mild game flavour.
One of the more overlooked wild birds which has fantastic flavour is duck.
Mallard and pintail are very good to eat and one is enough for two people.
To extract the most flavour you’ll need to work hard.
Enjoy this seasonal dish with the company of good friends and family over the festive period.
I wish you all a very merry, delicious Christmas.
2 wild ducks
400ml chicken stock
350ml red wine
1 stick celery
4 cloves garlic
4 star anise
bunch carrots (peeled)
1. Remove legs from the birds leaving the breasts on the crown. Keep the necks if you have them.
2. Chop the vegetables into 2cm pieces.
3. Heat a casserole dish. Add a knob of butter. Add vegetables and cook until lightly coloured.
4. Add port, wine, garlic and dry goods. Heat to a simmer.
5. Reduce by half and add chicken stock.
6. Bring to boil. Add duck legs (and necks if you have them for extra flavour).
7. Place casserole in a low oven 150C/gas 3 for two hours.
8. Check legs are cooked using a skewer which should go through them easily
9. Turn oven up to 220C/gas 7.
10. Strain liquid from the legs into a saucepan and put on the heat. Bring to boil and simmer to reduce while you cook the breasts
11. Pan-fry crowns in oil until golden all over and transfer to oven. Cook with the carrots for 15 minutes.
12. Carve breasts from the crown after resting for eight minutes.
13. Arrange leg and breast on plates with roasted carrots and quince paste.
14. The sauce should be reduced and glossy. Spoon over the legs and around the plate.
Lawrence’s restaurant is Fat Olives at Emsworth (fatolives.co.uk) Call 01243 377914.